Why Leaders Need to Think Before They Do | D2L
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Why Leaders Need to Think Before They Do

  • 3 Min Read

Leaders can be more effective by improving their ability to diagnose the variables of their opportunity to influence.

Forty-two percent of companies today cite leadership development as very important. There really is no such thing as a bad leadership style—empowerment, participation, and providing direction and structure all work. The crux of leadership is when you do what.

Successful and effective leaders are thoughtful people who possess the capacity to discern the objective of their attempt to influence an employee before they react or respond. According to Dr. Sam Shriver, executive vice president of the Center for Leadership Studies and a thought leader in leadership cultivation, the key to coaching great leadership skills lies in teaching leaders how to think before teaching them what to do.

At the end of the day, says Shriver, it comes down to adaptability and the ability to adjust one’s style to a given situation (or individual). He points to four core common and critical leadership competencies—diagnose, adapt, communicate, and advance— great leaders should develop in order to effectively influence others, accelerate the development of people with whom they come in contact, and reverse regression.

Diagnosing says Shriver, is the most important of the four core leadership competencies. The first step in handling any situation, good or bad, lies in a leader’s ability to diagnose and understand the nuances of the specific situation they are trying to influence. An accurate diagnosis will inform one’s ability to be more successful in any leadership situation. In a webinar called “Teach Leaders How to Think Before Teaching Them What to Do,” Shriver points to three specific areas where leaders can look to improve their ability to diagnose a situation.


Shriver says leaders need to ask themselves the following key questions: What can you be more aware of as a leader to improve your diagnostic capability? How aware are you of your own triggers, impulses, and instincts?  How do these innate biases affect your awareness of a specific situation? At the end of the day, the more aware of their own impulses, instincts, and triggers a leader is, the more they are able to control their choices and affect their own behaviors.


How does trust formed among the people you are leading improve the probability of your success?  Shriver points to the power of conversations and their ability to drive trust, maintaining that “conversational intelligence” drives a leader’s ability to influence not only people who directly report to them but also peers and senior executives. A leader’s ability to demonstrate expertise, history, and understanding is a foundational building block for establishing trust. Once expertise/competence is established, trust is then a matter of having “we-centric” conversations where ego is left at the door and honesty can prevail.


Finally, Shriver says familiarity is a key component of being able to successfully diagnose situations.  He challenges leaders to find ways to become more familiar with leadership by engaging in focused, purposeful practice. Just as peak athletes, musicians, chess players and other experts practice their craft to improve, leaders can engage in purposeful practice to hone their leadership skills and build proficiency. Shriver also stresses that leaders must measure their improvement as part of their practice and solicit feedback in order to benchmark performance improvements.

Check out these leadership skills new managers need to succeed.


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